The Pursuit of God

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Applying 1 Corinthians 15: Paul Demotes Christ


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This is a continuation of Applying 1 Corinthians 14.

Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. (1 Cor. 15:1-2)

Between you and your Makers, salvation is a very simple matter. You know whether you’ve sincerely submitted to Them or not and Jesus assures us that He will not reject anyone who comes to Him.

But when you start looking around at other people, salvation suddenly seems like a complicated matter. This is because you can’t see the souls of other people. They can say with their lips that Jesus is Lord, but that doesn’t tell you if they’ve actually submitted to Him or not. Jesus said most people would reject Him. He also said that many people who appear to be very committed to Him on earth have never really submitted to Him in their souls, thus they will end up in Hell (see Recognizing Wolves: By Their Fruits You Won’t Know Them). With so much fakery going on, how can you feel secure that everyone in a church congregation is really saved? You can’t. People can talk a good story when you’re in town on your evangelistic tour, and because you really want numbers, you’re quick to baptize them and slap the “saved” label onto them. But then when you leave town and you start hearing reports of those same people celebrating sin and showing no regard for God, you begin to have serious doubts about the legitimacy of their salvation. This is the pickle Paul is in. He has declared a bunch of believers in Corinth to be saved because when he was with them, they talked a good story. But now they’re acting like animals. So should Paul talk to these people like they are saved or unsaved? He’s not sure, so he waffles all over the place. You’ll find James and John doing this same thing. All of the apostles get insecure about the spiritual state of the audiences they are writing to, so one minute we find them passing out reassurances that are only appropriate for Christians, and the next minute we find them making dire threats and preaching Gospel basics again as if they believe they are talking to a bunch of hardened rebels. Paul began this chapter declaring his confidence that the Corinthians all believed the Gospel message. But he’s obviously not confident at all because now he’s going to review basics about who Christ is.

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, He was seen by more than 500 of His followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then He was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw Him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. (1 Cor. 15:3-9)

If Paul can’t be the greatest apostle, he has to be the least because either extreme will make him stand out as special. This humble sounding speech rings very false after all of the boasting he’s been doing in this letter.

But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out His special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace. So it makes no difference whether I preach or they preach, for we all preach the same message you have already believed. (1 Cor. 15:10-11)

After claiming to be an unworthy nobody, Paul is swift to boast of how well he has responded to God’s favor. He then arrogantly claims to have worked harder than all the other apostles, then he does a weak job of trying to veil his arrogance behind another layer of false humility by saying it was really God working through him. If Paul was really interested in giving God the glory, he wouldn’t keep blowing his own horn.

But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about Yahweh—for we have said that Yahweh raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are to be pitied more than anyone in the world.

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. (1 Cor. 15:12-20)

Why is the resurrection of Christ so important? Because that was His way of proving to the Jews that His claims to be God were real. The Jews were obsessed with miracles. They wanted supernatural truths to be proven by dramatic signs and wonders. Back in Chapter 1, Paul said:

For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom. (1 Cor. 1:22)

The Greeks were more like the stereotypical scientist today who scoffs at miraculous signs and instead wants truth to be proven by logical arguments. Since Jesus was primarily working with Jews, He used a lot of miraculous signs to prove His Divinity to them. He also predicted His death and resurrection on several occasions.

Now the resurrection itself doesn’t prove that Jesus is Divine. There are many records of people being resurrected in the Bible and in each case, Yahweh is the One being credited as making the resurrection happen. So what was so special about Jesus coming back to life? Why couldn’t we just say that Yahweh resurrected Jesus? If we do say this, then suddenly the resurrection doesn’t prove anything about Jesus being Divine—instead, Yahweh remains the only God and Jesus is just one more in a long line of humans who Yahweh has brought back from the dead.

So what stands out as unique about Jesus’ resurrection? Well, first He predicted it would happen. No other resurrected human in the Bible knew ahead of time that they would come back to life. Second, Jesus specifically said that He would bring Himself back to life.

“No one can take my life from Me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again.” (John 10:18)

On another occasion Jesus referred to His body as a metaphorical temple and said:

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

So Jesus said that He would raise Himself. Since only God has the power to control life and death on earth, this was Jesus’ way of proving to the Jews that He was God—a second God, to be precise. Now of course Paul and the other New Testament apostles completely botch this critical point about Christ raising Himself.  Instead, they give all of the credit to Yahweh. In Acts, Peter says:

“The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed Him by hanging Him on a cross.” (Acts 5:3)

And then there’s Paul saying this famous line in Romans:

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that Yahweh raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom. 10:9)

So then, Jesus said He raised Himself, but the apostles say Yahweh raised Him because the apostles are struggling to accept Jesus as Yahweh’s equal. What a mess.

Now some of the folks in Corinth have completely thrown out the idea of anyone resurrecting from the dead, which is the same as saying there is no afterlife. This is what the Sadducees taught in Jesus’ time, and it was a major point of contention between them and the Pharisees. The Sadducees said that the books of Moses (the first five books of the Old Testament) were the only legitimate Scriptures. Since they didn’t see any mention of resurrection or an afterlife in those books, they declared the ideas to be ridiculous. But the Pharisees said that the entire Old Testament was legitimate, and because there is a lot of talk about an afterlife in the rest of the Old Testament and descriptions of people being brought back to life, the Pharisees said resurrection was real. In Acts we read:

For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and no angel or spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all. (Acts 23:8)

Here in Chapter 15, Paul says that if the Corinthians throw out the idea of resurrection, they are rejecting the whole Gospel message, which is true. For Jesus said He came to give us eternal life—that means humans have eternal spirits which will continue to live on after physical death. Jesus also came back from the dead in front of everyone. So to say there is no resurrection is to call Jesus a liar and to reject critical proof of His Divinity (His resurrection). If the Corinthians really think this life is it, then why bother with Jesus at all? Why are they putting their faith in a Savior who atoned for their sins if the whole concept of eternal judgment is irrelevant? We can certainly appreciate how beliefs like these would cause Paul to doubt these people’s standing with God. They’re certainly not talking like serious believers.

So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another Man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when He comes back. (1 Cor. 15:21-23)

Paul’s language here is sloppy. A man didn’t bring death into the world—God did. Adam didn’t know that he was going to be cursed for eating the forbidden fruit. It was Yahweh who introduced the idea of humans physically dying.

We don’t “belong to Adam.” Adam is not God, he’s just a human and we don’t even know if Adam landed on the right side of eternity. You’ll notice that there is no mention of Adam and Eve ever repenting for their sin in the book of Genesis. We hear of them being banned from the Garden and that’s it. Neither of them are recorded as saying “I’m sorry, God, I was wrong.” That isn’t a very hopeful sign.

So we don’t belong to Adam and we don’t die because we belong to Adam. We physically die on this earth because that’s how our Gods have set things up. They’ve always intended our time in this physical dimension to be very brief.

“Everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life”—this language is misleading because no one is going to be dead in eternity. Our souls never cease to be alive, regardless of whether they end up in Heaven or Hell. So when you read about people receiving “eternal life” or “new life” in the Bible, those terms are referring to people ending up on the happy side of eternity. When it’s said that we have “passed from death to life”, that’s really a reference to us no longer being in danger of eternal damnation. It has nothing to do with our souls dying and coming back to life because our souls are always alive.

After that the end will come, when He will turn the Kingdom over to Yahweh the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until He humbles all His enemies beneath His feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Cor. 15:24-26)

This is all complete rubbish. Christ is not going to turn anything over to Yahweh because Christ is Yahweh’s equal, not Yahweh’s subordinate. Christ doesn’t have to destroy any authority or power because all three of our Creators already reign supreme over all things. It’s utter rot for Paul to say “Christ must reign until” as if Christ’s reign will someday end. It won’t end because Christ is our eternal King.

Paul’s personification of death is utterly ridiculous. Death is not an enemy. Death is not a cognizant being who Christ must duke it out with. Death is merely the transitioning of human souls from earth to an eternal dimension. Paul is such a dingdong when it comes to describing how things work in eternity.

For the Scriptures say, “Yahweh has put all things under his feet.” [Psalm 8:6] (1 Cor. 15:27)

Here’s more rot. In Psalm 8, David is referring to all of humanity, not to Christ.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is mankind that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them? You have made man a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth! (Ps. 8:3-9)

We have Paul to thank for the idiotic idea that “Christ is on every page of the Old Testament.” By the time Paul is done mangling Scripture to suit his own agenda, we have Christ popping up everywhere and being constantly referred to by people who never knew He existed.

Of course, when it says “all things are under his authority,” that does not include Yahweh Himself, who gave Christ His authority. (1 Cor. 15:27)

No, this isn’t what it means because Psalm 8:6 has nothing to do with Christ. By even using that Psalm as a description of Christ, Paul is totally insulting Christ and suggesting that He is nothing more than a mortal.

Now when Christ was walking around in Israel working with Jews who were enormously threatened by the concept of multiple Gods, He often emphasized His voluntary submission to Yahweh as a way of reassuring the Jews that He wasn’t trying to shove Yahweh off of His throne. But Christ didn’t teach He was lower than Yahweh. On the contrary, He describes Himself as the Gatekeeper of Heaven—the One who decides who gets to come in and who doesn’t. He describes Himself as being one with Yahweh, as having the same abilities as Yahweh, and the same authority as Yahweh. In the Old Testament, Yahweh calls Himself “the First and the Last.” In Revelation, Jesus adopts this title as well, and He displays Himself as being worshiped in majestic glory. We never find our Gods condoning the worship of mere created things. Humans and angels can receive special privileges and commendation from our Gods in Heaven, but only our Gods are actually worshiped.

It is vital to understand that Yahweh has always condemned the worship of any created things. It is only the uncreated that should be worshiped, and Jesus is uncreated. This is why it is acceptable to worship Jesus as well as Yahweh—because both are our uncreated Creators. Yet by the time Paul is done mangling the identity of Christ, he’s turned Christ into some lower ranking subordinate who received temporary authority from the great Yahweh and who will one day turn all of His power back over to Yahweh. This is absolute rot.

Then, when all things are under His authority, the Son will put Himself under Yahweh’s Authority, so that Yahweh, who gave His Son Authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere. (1 Cor. 15:28)

Don’t let anyone tell you that the doctrine of the Trinity is biblical. The doctrine of the Trinity is manmade rubbish that was invented well after the writing of the New Testament. The New Testament apostles didn’t come anywhere close to viewing Christ as just another “expression” of Yahweh. It’s more like they were paranoid about Christ being too exalted because they didn’t want Yahweh to be minimized in anyway. Notice how Paul slams Christ down in this passage, rips His Authority away, and then exalts Yahweh as the only supreme Ruler. We won’t see the day that Christ turns in His crown and resigns as the sovereign King.

It’s ironic that Paul is putting out all this Christ bashing rot in the middle of a lecture on how the Corinthians are rejecting Christ by rejecting the concept of resurrection. Does Paul think he’s not rejecting Christ as he makes Christ out to be some powerful human who got hired on by Yahweh to put the world in order? To say that Christ is not God or that He’s some lesser god or to say that He’s some extra powerful created being is utter garbage. When Paul talks this irreverently about Christ, we can’t help but question the validity of Paul’s own salvation. Jesus said “The Father and I are one” in John 10:30. Yahweh called Jesus “Mighty God” and “Eternal Father” in Isaiah 9:6. Does this sound like subordinate language? Yahweh used the term Father to refer to both Himself and Jesus. Yahweh publicly commanded the Jews to listen to Jesus several times during Jesus’ ministry on earth, and if we don’t revere Jesus as God Almighty, we’re going to get chucked into Hell by all three of our Creators. So there’s no room for minimizing who Christ is. He isn’t just “God’s Son.” He is God.

If the dead will not be raised, what point is there in people being baptized for those who are dead? Why do it unless the dead will someday rise again? (1 Cor. 15:29)

There’s actually no point in trying to get baptized on behalf of corpses, but this is a ritual some religions have cooked up and clearly some Corinthians are participating in it. Paul tries to use this ridiculous ritual as evidence that these people must believe in an afterlife.

And why should we ourselves risk our lives hour by hour? For I swear, dear brothers and sisters, that I face death daily. This is as certain as my pride in what Christ Jesus our Lord has done in you. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? And if there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” [Isa. 22:13] Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.” Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all. (1 Cor. 15:30-34)

Here Paul points to his personal devotion to the Gospel message as evidence that it is validity. What a load of malarkey. We can find devoted followers in countless religions in this world. Since when does a man’s willingness to be persecuted for his beliefs prove that he isn’t delusional? Paul is totally out of line to suggest that the Corinthians should put their faith in Christ because that’s what Paul has chosen to do. Paul could be a complete fruitcake. If you really care about souls finding God, you tell them to seek God directly, you don’t say, “Hey, I feel pretty good about His existence, so obviously He’s real, because I could never be wrong.” If Christ is really who He claims to be, then obviously He can handle the task of convincing His own creatures of His reality. And if Christ Himself isn’t the One affirming your belief in Him, then what are you doing—risking the fate of your soul on some human theory and some dusty old Bible?

If Christianity is just a religion to you, then you’re on your way to Hell. Our Gods are not some pretty theory we ascribe to, They are real, living Beings who are intimately involved in our lives. We don’t publicly commit to Christ to go along with the flow of some religious crowd. We bow down with our souls to Creators who we have a spiritual connection with. If you can’t honestly say that you have such a connection, then you need to do some serious praying. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you certain of what truth is and who your Creators are.

Now the quotation Paul borrows from Isaiah is actually appropriate—what a nice change. In Isaiah 22, Yahweh gives His prophet a grim vision of Jerusalem getting spanked by an invading army while the Jews scramble to shore up breaches in the city’s walls. Then Yahweh describes how He ordered the little jerks to repent, but they chose to party instead. The line about partying is the one that Paul uses.

“Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (Isa. 22:13)

Isaiah then concludes his grim warning to Jerusalem with these words:

“Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,” says the Lord, Yahweh Almighty. (Isa. 22:14)

In other words, this group of Jews have pushed Yahweh too far and He has eternally condemned them.

But someone may ask, “How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. Then God gives it the new body He wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed. Similarly there are different kinds of flesh—one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.

There are also bodies in the heavens and bodies on the earth. The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the glory of the earthly bodies. The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars each have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their glory.

It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.

The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” [Gen. 2:7] But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from Heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly Man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly Man.

What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. (1 Cor. 15:35-50)

Don’t put too much stock in what Paul says about how things work in eternity. A guy who so brazenly misquotes Scripture and makes Christ out to be less than God can hardly be trusted. The reality is that we have no idea what eternity will be like. Realize that when Christ resurrected from the dead, He used the same corpse that had been crucified, scourged, and beaten. He would have been a pretty gruesome sight. But even though Christ showed His crucifixion wounds to His disciples, you’ll find foolish teachers in the Church today telling you that Christ’s resurrected body proves that we’ll all have physical bodies in Heaven. No, it doesn’t. We really shouldn’t be expecting Heaven to be a physical dimension at all, but something totally different.

But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. (1 Cor. 15:51-53)

This is just Paul making stuff up. It is not true that the souls of the dead are currently stuck in the ground waiting for some heavenly trumpet to sound. When we die on earth, our souls will immediately be transferred to eternity. There isn’t going to be any delay while we all wait around to go up as a group. Paul teaches that there will be a delay, but how can we even respect Paul as a teacher after all the guff he has put out in this letter?

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” [Isa. 25:8]
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” [Hos. 13:4] (1 Cor. 15:54-55)

Here’s Paul intentionally misleading people again. Notice how he strings these two quotations together and refers to them as a single citation when really they are totally unrelated thoughts.

In Isaiah 25, we find Yahweh speaking metaphorically about Heaven. Describing the joy of those who end up on the right side of eternity, He says:

He will swallow up death forever. The Lord Yahweh will wipe away the tears from every face and remove His people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for Yahweh has spoken. On that day it will be said, “Look, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He has saved us. This is Yahweh; we have waited for Him. Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” (Isa. 25:8-9)

What does this have to do with our souls acquiring new bodies? Nothing, so Paul is lying to us when he says: “when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled.” No, actually, this Scripture is a general description of the joys of Heaven, it doesn’t even mention bodies.

Paul then dips into Hosea 13, and here he really gets absurd. In Hosea 13, a fuming Yahweh is describing His exasperation with defiant Jews. Reflecting back on Israel’s history, He recalls how the Jews have been despising Him since the days of Moses.

Yahweh says, “I am Yahweh your God, who led you out of Egypt. You have no God but Me. I alone am your Savior. I took care of you in a dry, desert land. But when you entered the good land, you became full and satisfied, and then you grew proud and forgot Me. So I will attack you like a lion! Like a leopard I will lie in wait along your path! I will attack you like a bear that has lost her cubs, and I will tear you open! Like a lion I will devour you on the spot, and will tear you to pieces like a wild animal! (Hos. 13:4-8)

Yahweh is sounding pretty mad, isn’t He? His acrid tone and vengeful language cue you that He is speaking to hardened rebels. Remember that our Gods always respond to our heart attitude. They don’t get this mad unless there is some very informed, very intentional defiance going on.

“I will destroy you, people of Israel! Then who can help you?” (Hos. 13:9)

This is scary stuff. Clearly Yahweh’s patience has come to an end with these brats. Hosea was a prophet who spoke to the northern kingdom of Israel, which was also called Ephraim. Hosea was a peer of Isaiah—they preached at the same time and they both lived long enough to see Yahweh fulfill this prophecy by using the Assyrian Empire to brutally conquer the northern kingdom of Israel.

“Ephraim’s guilt is preserved; his sin is stored up. Labor pains come on him. He is not a wise son; when the time comes, he will not be born.

Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight.” (Hos. 13:12-14)

Sheol was the name of a fictitious underworld which the Jews believed all souls ended up in after death. When Yahweh calls out to Death and Sheol in this passage, it’s like a man saying “sic ‘em” to his trained attack dogs. Yahweh is calling on Death and Sheol to do their worst—to metaphorically aid Him in destroying the Israelites. Notice how He says that He will not have compassion on these people.

And then there’s Paul. When Paul quotes Yahweh’s furious words, he says “when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled”. Right. He then says:

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But praise Yahweh, for He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:56-57)

Paul turns Yahweh’s declaration of doom over the people of Israel into a sarcastic mocking of death’s lack of power. This isn’t at all what Yahweh meant when He said “O Death, where are your thorns?” How can we keep respecting Paul as a learned scholar of Scriptures when he plays games like this?

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Cor. 15:58)

Our work actually is useless when we are not acting in alignment with the Holy Spirit. It’s commonly thought in the Church today that you can join any ministry effort and God will be pleased with you. Well, no, He won’t. Did you even bother to ask Him before you signed up? Are you even seeking His leading as you make your plans and do whatever it is you do? God is not pleased with servants who step out of place and try to lead their Masters. It’s not our place to tell God how He will work through us.

Speaking of useless things, this chapter has been a pretty sorry pile of bad teaching. We can’t treat Paul’s slanderous teaching about Christ as a minor issue. His defense of the Gospel has been utterly pathetic. Instead of urging the Corinthians to seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit about the issue of resurrection, Paul puts out a bunch of guff about how things will work in eternity and then he tells the Corinthians that they ought to believe in the Good News simply because Paul believes in it and Paul can’t fathom being wrong. If deceptive applications of Scripture and the confident delusions of an arrogant apostle are the only foundation the Corinthians have been trying to build their faith on, no wonder they’re having such trouble.

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